Hundreds of Prison Officers marched through Westminster on Wednesday (20th March) demanding action against soaring levels of violence, an end to private prisons, and a fair retirement age of 60.
Marching down Whitehall past Downing Street, POA union members and supporters then went to a rally in Methodist Central Hall off Parliament Square, to hear from fellow trade unionists and MPs from across the political parties’. Some protesters then went on to lobby their MPs in parliament.
Speaking at the Rally POA General Secretary Steve Gillan said; “We may be banned by law from taking any kind of industrial action, but they can’t take away our right to protest. We are here in Westminster to hold the Government to account for causing this prisons crisis. My members face record levels of violence – day in, day out – simply for doing their job. This is a health and safety emergency, and the Government must immediately return the money it stole from the Prison Service in the discredited name of austerity.
New private prisons are not the answer – with their record of overcrowding, understaffing, more violence and worse terms and conditions than at public prisons. The Government must end its ideological obsession with running prisons for profit.
And we demand our cruelly high retirement age is brought back down to 60. Across Parliament, Politicians agree that 68 is too late! We ask all MPs, how many people do you know who could perform the physically demanding and extreme role of a front-line Prison Officer until the age of 68?”.
Napo National Official, Sarah Friday, also addressed the rally. Sarah told colleagues in the POA; “I bring Solidarity greetings from Napo from our members who work in probation and family courts …it is five years since I last attended one of your rallies here in this hall …I began to think about the last five years and what has happened to Napo members working in probation in this time in which we have witnessed the part privatisation of probation which has led to an award winning service before privatisation – being reduced to the disaster area it is today.
In recent weeks we have seen the privatised structures designed for delivery of the privatised section of probation the CRCs collapse. The CRCs in the South West and Wales go into administration. Unfortunately they were not then taken back into public ownership – but instead leased out to another private provider. And of course last week we saw Interserve go into administration – five of the CRCs are run by Interserve CRCs and our members are fearful as to what this means for them. Napo are campaigning for the CRCs to come back into the public sector, for pay harmonisation for our members in both the NPS and CRC. To read Sarah’s speech in full – click below.